Published: June 6, 2006
Carol Dean Krute, curator of costume and textiles at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art for 15 years, died of cancer Tuesday, May 30, at her home in Grasmere, N.Y.
Until her retirement in September 2005, Krute researched, installed and planned exhibitions at the Wadsworth Atheneum with remarkable creativity and dash, working with a large collection ranging from pre-Columbian textiles to space age fibers. A gifted storyteller with a knack for titling exhibitions, she imbued her installations with narrative, wit and verve. A sense of rhythm or motion was always present in her galleries, no matter if the featured objects were lengths of flat fabric or costumes displayed on mannequins.
Although the last exhibition she installed at the Wadsworth Atheneum was “Romance to Rock and Roll: A Fashionable Reprise,” she developed and “oversaw by remote control” the current show, “Revivals: Costumes for Song and Dance,” which is on view through August 13, and the upcoming Crewel World” (September 23-February 25).
During her tenure, Krute acquired numerous items for the costume and textiles collection. Among them were works by leading contemporary artists such as Anni Albers, Olga de Amaral, Ferne Jacobs, Jack Lenor Larsen, Gerhardt Knodel, Caroline Mazloomi, Sheila Hicks, John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Ed Rossbach, Lenore Tawney and the emerging team of Joan Morris and Michèle Ratté.
She also pursued rarities to fill gaps in the collection, successfully obtaining one of only six “petal stoles” created by American designer Charles James. However, snaring a suitably proportioned “mermaid dress” by Norman Norell eluded her.
To augment the museum’s unparalleled Serge Lifar collection of theater designs, she purchased costumes designed by Bakst, de Chirico, Matisse and Roerich for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes productions of Le Spectre de la Rose, The Rite of Spring and The Sleeping Princess, among others, at auction at Sotheby’s London in 1996.
The Lifar collection, much in demand worldwide, sent Krute to museums in Japan and Spain, and more recently to the Baltimore Museum of Art. In recent years, she traveled to St Petersburg, Russia, and to Beijing, China, to conduct research.
From 1980 to 1990, she had been a curatorial assistant at the Brooklyn Museum, where she contributed her talents to nearly 20 exhibitions, including, “The Blues: Indigo Textiles from Around the World,” “The Opulent Era: Fashions of Worth, Doucet and Pingat,” and “The Genius of Charles James.”
Before entering the museum field, Krute, who had studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Cornell University, worked on New York’s Seventh Avenue as a designer of children’s clothing. A lifelong Staten Islander, she later received her BS in the performing and creative arts with highest honors and an MA in liberal studies from the College of Staten Island.
Krute is survived by her husband of 45 years, Frank Krute; her two sons, Mark and Scott; a brother, Joel Dean; a sister, Laura Dean; and six grandchildren.
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